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Jataka Story: NAḶAPĀNA JĀTAKA ~ The Monkeys and the Demon

NAḶAPĀNA JĀTAKA ~ The Monkeys and the Demon

“He saw the marks of feet,” etc.—This the Teacher told about the Naḷa-canes, when he was living at the Ketaka wood, hard by the Lake of Naḷaka-pāna, after he had come to the village of that name on his tour through Kosala.

At that time the monks, after they had bathed in the Naḷaka-pāna lake, had the canes of the Naḷa-plant brought to them by the novices, for needle-cases. And finding them hollow throughout, they went to the Teacher, and asked him, “Lord! we had Naḷa-canes brought for needle-cases. They are hollow throughout, from root to point. How is this?”

“This, mendicants,” said he, “is a former command of mine.” And he told a tale:


 

This was formerly, they say, a densely-wooded forest. And in its lake there was a water-demon, who used to eat whomsoever went down into the water. At that time the Bodisat was a monkey-king, in size like the fawn of a red deer; and attended by a troop of monkeys about eighty thousand in number, he lived in that forest, preserving them from harm.

Now he exhorted the troop of monkeys, saying, “My children! in this forest there are poisonous trees, and pools haunted by demons. When you are going to eat fruits of any kind you have not eaten before, or to drink water you have not drunk before, ask me about it.”

“Very well,” said they. And one day they went to a place they had not been to before. There they wandered about the greater part of the day; and when, in searching about for water, they found a pond, they sat down without even drinking, and looked forward to the arrival of their king.

When the Bodisat had come, he asked them, “Why, my children, do you take no water?”

“We awaited your arrival,” said they.

“It is well, my children!” said the Bodisat; and fixing his attention on the foot-marks close round the edge of the pond, he saw that they went down, but never came up. Then he knew that it was assuredly haunted by demons, and said, “You have done well, my children, not to have drunk the water. This pond is haunted!”

But when the demon of the water saw that they were not going down into it, he assumed the horrible shape of a blue-bellied, pale-faced, red-handed, red-footed creature, and came splashing out through the water, and cried out, “Why do you sit still here? Go down and drink the water!”

But the Bodisat asked him, “Are you the water-demon who haunts this spot?”

“Yes! I am he!” was the reply.

“Have you received power over all who go down into the pool?”

“Yes, indeed! I carry off even a bird when it comes down, and I let no one off. You too I will devour, one and all!”

“We shall not allow you to eat us.”

“Well, then! drink away!”

“Yes! we shall drink the water too, but we shall not fall into your hands.”

“How, then, will you get at the water?”

“You imagine, I suppose, that we must go down to drink. But you are wrong! Each one of us eighty thousand shall take a Naḷa-cane and drink the water of your pond without ever entering it, as easily as one would drink from the hollow stem of a water-plant. And so you will have no power to eat us!”

It was when the Teacher as Buddha had recalled this circumstance that he uttered the first half of the following stanza:

“I saw the marks of feet that had gone down,
I saw no marks of feet that had returned.”

(But then he said to the monkeys)—

“We’ll drink the water through a reed,”

(And turning to the demon, he added)—

“And yet I’ll not become your prey!”

So saying, the Bodisat had a Naḷa-cane brought to him, and appealing in great solemnity to the Ten Great Perfections (generosity, morality, self-denial, wisdom, perseverance, patience, truth, resolution, kindness, and resignation) exorcised by him in this and previous births,he blew into the cane.And the cane became hollow throughout, not a single knot being left in it. In this manner he had another, and then another, brought, and blew into it.Then the Bodisat walked round the pond, and commanded, saying, “Let all the canes growing here be perforated throughout.” And thenceforward, since through the greatness of the goodness of the Bodisats their commands are fulfilled, all the canes which grew in that pond became perforated throughout.


There are four miracles in this Kalpa (the period which elapses between the commencement of the formation of the world and its final destruction) which endure throughout a Kalpa—the sign of the hare in the moon will last the whole Kalpa:the place where the fire was extinguished in the Quail-birth will not take fire again through all the Kalpa: the place where the potter lived will remain arid through all the Kalpa: the canes growing round this pond will be hollow through all the Kalpa. These four are called the Kalpa-lasting Wonders.


After giving this command, the Bodisat took a cane and seated himself. So, too, those eighty thousand monkeys took, each of them, a cane, and seated themselves round the pond. And at the same moment as he drew the water up into his cane and drank, so, too, they all sat safe on the bank, and drank.

Thus the water-demon got not one of them into his power on their drinking the water, and he returned in sorrow to his own place. But the Bodisat and his troop went back again to the forest.


When the Teacher, having finished this discourse in illustration of his words (“The hollowness of those canes, mendicants, is a former command of mine”), he made the connexion, and summed up the Jātaka, saying: “He who was then the water-demon was Devadatta; the eighty thousand monkeys were the Buddha’s retinue; but the monkey king, clever in resource, was I myself.”

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